Brewers, Cubs meet in one-game playoff for NL Central title
CHICAGO — Throughout a season in which the Chicago Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers spent the year as neighbors, both geographically and in the National League Central standings, it will come down to one final meeting.
After finishing the 162-game schedule with matching records (95-67) and in a first-place tie atop the Central, the division title and the ability to avoid playing in a one-game wild-card playoff game will be determined by a Monday meeting at Wrigley Field.
By beating the St. Louis Cardinals 10-5 on Sunday, the Cubs will host the Brewers, who remained in the hunt for the Central title with an 11-0 victory over the Detroit Tigers. The winner will boast the National League’s record and host the NL Division Series on Thursday. The loser will play in a wild-card game on Tuesday.
The Cubs own a 11-8 advantage in the season series with the Brewers.
“We’re going to have to come out and play our game,” Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo said in a postgame televised interview on NBC Sports Chicago. “I think we lay it on the line tomorrow.”
Jose Quintana (13-11, 4.09 ERA) will start for the Cubs on Monday. He has been solid in September and has allowed two or fewer earned runs in four of his five starts this month.
Quintana is coming off a no-decision against the Pittsburgh Pirates in which he surrendered two runs and four hits in five innings. He is 6-2 with a 1.60 ERA in 10 career starts against the Brewers.
As familiar as the Cubs and Brewers are with one another, Monday’s game will hold extra significance. Although it’s not a win or go home scenario for either team, the winner will have home-field advantage in the divisional series and the loser will have to turn around and play Tuesday in the wild-card matchup.
“They’re a great team, they’re well-coached, we’re a great team, we’re well-coached,” Rizzo said. “They want it, we want it. We’ve been battling back and forth for the last few years now. Wrigley Field, noon game, right? The fans will be behind us all day. I couldn’t think of a better place to be playing and how lucky we are to be playing (Monday).”
The Brewers, who trailed the Cubs by five games earlier this month and by a full game before winning Saturday, will arrive at Wrigley Field full of confidence having won seven straight games and nine out of their last 10.
Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell has not yet settled on a starting pitcher for Monday’s game but has the luxury of not having to use any of his top-end relievers in Sunday’s lopsided victory over the Tigers.
Regardless of who takes the mound for the Brewers, Milwaukee knows if it can extend its win streak, the extra two days of rest and not having to play in a must-win situation on Tuesday will be well worth the effort.
“We’re going in there with the mindset that it’s a must win,” Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich said after Sunday’s victory. “Obviously, we are still alive if we don’t win. … The mindset is that we’ve given ourselves two chances to get in. We need to be ready to go.
“They are a great team. We’ve played each other tough all year. It’s only fitting that we have to do one more.”